Colorado wildfire claims first victim
Colorado Springs, June 29, 2012
A wildfire has killed at least one person, incinerated 346 homes and driven out 35,000 people on the edge of Colorado's second biggest city - the most destructive blaze in state history, officials said.
Lighter winds helped firefighters battling to contain the inferno, which roared unchecked on Tuesday night through residential neighborhoods in the northwestern corner of Colorado Springs and neared the U.S. Air Force Academy campus in town.
Aerial photos of devastation unleashed by the so-called Waldo Canyon Fire showed large swaths of neighborhoods reduced to gray ash - one house after another obliterated while adjacent dwellings survived mostly unscathed.
Authorities initially acknowledged the loss of hundreds of homes, but the damage toll released Thursday afternoon by Mayor Steve Bach - a preliminary count of 346 homes gutted by fire - confirmed the full extent of destruction.
Hours later, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said a body was found in the debris of a burned-out home, marking the first known death from the five-day-old blaze.
Carey gave no further details about the person, who became the fifth killed this year in a Colorado wildfire season described by the governor as the worst in state history.
The police chief said he had reports of two adults missing in the fire, but it was not immediately clear whether the body found accounted for one of them.
Earlier in the day, police said some people listed as unaccounted for were believed to have neglected to register with the city or the American Red Cross as evacuees.
The tally of homes consumed by the Waldo Canyon blaze ranks as the most on record, surpassing the 257 homes swallowed in recent weeks by a much larger blaze north of Denver near Fort Collins. – Reuters